As Colorado sheriffs move forward with their lawsuit to have new state gun laws declared unconstitutional, the attorney general has agreed to issue guidelines that would put some of the sheriffs' concerns to rest.
Since the lawsuit against Gov. John Hickenlooper was filed in May, the sheriffs have asked a federal judge to put a temporary hold on some parts of the law that bans large-capacity magazines, saying the wording is unconstitutional.
Attorney General John Suthers said late Tuesday night that his office will rewrite technical guidelines that would clarify how those parts of the law are to be applied. Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said he and the other sheriffs are happy about that.
"This is the first step," Cooke said. "It's kind of like chipping away a little piece at a time, and that's kind of what we've done."
The sheriffs filed the lawsuit in May, alleging that laws limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds and requiring background checks for sales and transfers of firearms violate constitutional rights.
The sheriffs asked a federal judge in June for a temporary injunction on two phrases in the magazine law -- one which bans all magazines that can be "readily converted to hold more rounds," and another which requires that a person be in "continuous possession" of any large-capacity magazines that were purchased before the law took effect.
The sheriffs have argued that all magazines can be modified because they have removable base plates, so the current phrasing in the law effectively bans all magazines. They also say the "continuous possession" wording makes it illegal for a person to leave their magazine with anyone else, even for just a few hours.
David Kopel, the attorney representing the sheriffs, said the attorney general's new guidelines will alleviate those concerns. He said people can legally have 15-round magazines with removable base plates and can do "all the normal things that people do with magazines, like leave them with a gunsmith for two weeks for repair or let a friend borrow the magazine."
Added Cooke, "It's good news, I think, for the sheriffs and the citizens of Colorado."
After the attorney general's office agreed to revise the guidelines for the law, both sides in the case asked the federal judge to grant a stipulated injunction. The judge said there was no need for an injunction since both parties were on the same page, so that motion was withdrawn.
Kopel said the bigger issues with two gun laws remain, and the lawsuit will continue. He said the lawsuit could go to trial in December.
Cooke said the need for the attorney general to issue guidance on a new law "points back to what bad bills they are and how poorly written they were and that the governor should never have signed them."
Cooke said he considers the attorney general's agreement to be a victory, but he's still concerned that the laws are in place.
"The attorney general's guidance is just that," Cooke said. "It's not the law."
It's good news, I think, for the sheriffs and the citizens of Colorado.
-- John Cooke, Weld County sheriff ___